FRISCO – As he hosted his celebrity baseball game for the eighth time Friday night at Dr Pepper Ballpark, Dirk Nowitzki reminisced back to 2012 when he was asked to take over for Mike Modano in what has become one of the most popular social gatherings in the metroplex.
“My first reaction was absolutely not,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve never played baseball in my life and I didn’t want to look completely silly.
“But they kind of talked me into it and (said): ‘Just try it one year and if we like it and it’s a success we’ll keep it going.’ “
Nowitzki indeed tried it the year after he led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA championship in 2011, and it has been going strong to the tune of raising over $4.5 million for the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and the Heroes Foundation. On Friday, that success continued as a sellout crowd of 11,741 watched the Blue Sox defeat Nowitzki’s White Sox, 17-10, in Dirk’s 2019 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game.
Morgan Stanley’s Charlie McKinney is one of the men who helped piece together this star-studded charity event nearly two decades ago. At the time, Modano was two years removed from leading the Dallas Stars to their only Stanley Cup title, and Mark Cuban was less than six months into being the new proprietor of the Mavs.
“In 2001, I had two clients who were super famous and that was Mark Cuban and Mike Modano,” McKinney said. “They were the two most famous guys in Dallas.
“So we decided after 9/11 that we wanted to do something, and we came up with the idea of doing the baseball game. They said they’d lend their names to it, and that was the initial start.”
Now, the game has grown to the point where it’s a must-see event that folks can’t wait to put on their calendar. On Friday there were even approximately 2,000 people sitting on the grassy areas of Dr Pepper Ballpark just so they can get a glimpse of their favorite sports and entertainment celebrities.
“It feels like it’s growing every year,” Nowitzki said. “This year within the first two-three days over 6,000 tickets were sold.”
So why has this game been so successful? McKinney said: “The people that play and the fact that it’s a baseball game, not a softball game. Because everybody likes to see bad baseball by these guys, right?”
Even the Dallas Cowboys’ two brightest stars – quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott – took time out of their busy schedule to show up and play in a game that – thanks to a lot of errors – makes the participants look like mere mortals, because most of them are out of their element. Prescott noted that he was honored just to be associated with this game.
“To be a part of an amazing event like this that Charlie, and to follow Mike Modano and Dirk and along with those names, you look around at all of these — not only great athletes but great men up here is wonderful,” he said. “Just to be associated with them for a great cause and raising a lot of money, it’s just an honor and something I look forward to being a part of for a long time.”
Nowitzki echoed that sentiment.
“I want to thank Mike Modano and the guys who carried it for 10 years and made it easy for me to step in and carry the torch,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been a great, great success with support from many, many people.
“It’s almost like this game now is part of this community, and we obviously appreciate the support from all of the celebs. This has been a fantastic event and thank you guys for coming out.”